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Finding Social Media ROI is like Hunting a Unicorn

March 8, 2012

I’ve been intentionally not posting on my blog for a good reason – O.K., that’s not entirely true but I’ll talk more about that at the end of this post – but the intersection of four interesting items all surrounding social media have caused me to violate my posting moratorium.

Here is a list of the four items in the order I encountered them:

  1. Post on The Financial Brand titled “Confessions of a Social Media Skeptic
  2. Post on Snarketing 2.0 about how “Banks and Credit Unions Can Forget Twitter for Marketing
  3. A question on a bank marketing board asking other participants for “ideas to help drive people to our Facebook page.”  URL intentionally not shared to protect the innocent and not so innocent discussion participants.
  4. An article by Dave Martin on American Banker’s Bank Think titled “Your Staff’s Time is as Valuable as the Customer’s

I’ll give you a quick bit of background on my own foray into social media and then quickly move on to some comments about these four interesting items and my thoughts on how they are all related.

First, my background on using social media within the banking industry:

  1. It all started when a man by the name of Al Gore and I invented the Internet
  2. Most of my involvement in using social media within the financial services industry would be traced back to my use of LinkedIn in 2008.  An innocent invite from a friend in the technology field introduced me to this professional networking site.  Since that time I’ve grown very fond of LinkedIn; have used it to advertise industry webinars, publications, speaking gigs, etc; and have found it to be a very valuable source of industry credibility.
  3.  In May of 2009, I started the Twitter handle @BankMarketing.  This project started from a small observation: that I read a sh*t ton of articles about banking and bank marketing, which many others in our industry don’t see.  I started the account the first night I was at the ABA School of Bank Marketing & Management after mentioning Kasasa  and nobody had heard of it yet.  (Confession: a Google alert on a competitor was how I knew about this product before they had done a large formal launch).  My tweets mainly consist of broadcasting what I’m reading within the industry.  The byproduct is that I’ve connected with a ton of people in the financial industry, increased by industry reach and credibility, and been exposed to a lot of writings that I might have missed.
  4. In late December of 2010 I started the now rarely maintained blog/website  My intentions for this site were to have a presence on the web outside of my employer – both at the time and the new one I was about to join – and to start advertising my speaking services within the industry.  The blogging portion of my site is underutilized because of the main point of this entire post: ROI (Return on Investment).  More correctly, I’d say ROSMI (Return on Social Media Investment).


What is ROSMI?  Better put: Who is ROSMI?

Pronunciation: “Rose-Me”

Definition: a mostly mythical and poorly drawn unicorn

Pictorial Definition:

I drew this picture a few months back after my 4-year-old daughter said, “please draw a unicorn.” Me to her, “does it look like a unicorn?” Her, “not very much.” It’s amazing to think that my drawing skills peaked at age 5.

O.K., so now that you know my history with social media and the definition of Rose-Me, let’s get back to the intersection of the four items I discussed up at the top.

Item 1: Hopefully you actually clicked on the link to the great read at  If you did not, allow me to recap:

A 25-year-old bank marketer named Dave – who looks quite scary in the shadowy pictorial representation – said that social media has become an irrational quest by banks.  He said that ROI needs to be the focus of all marketing decisions instead of taking off on a wild quest for a mythical purple Unicorn.

ROSMI Summary: Every bank marketer in America, “Where is that damn mythical purple Unicorn, Rose-Me?”  Dave, “She doesn’t exist. Neither does Santa or the Easter Bunny.”

Item 2: Hopefully the four of you who are reading this also subscribe to Ron Shevlin’s excellent blog .  I know at least 25% of you do as Ron is one of the four subscribers.  If you are in the other 75% – i.e. you aren’t Ron Shevlin – do yourself a favor and subscribe to his blog.

On his site you can read interesting posts like this recent one that is summarized with the following:

  • Credit Union members don’t engage with their CUs…nor will they do so with large banks.
  • One-half of one percent of all Twitter users follow a bank.
  • Twitter’s usefulness is questionable when you look at the desirable outcomes of any potential marketing banks or CUs can do.
    • Ultimately, Ron sums up the post with this line: “Bank and credit union CEOs need to start asking their CMOs: Is Twitter really the best use of your department’s time and resources?”

ROSMI Summary: Bank CEO to CMO, “If you insist on taking your staff off on a trek to find this mythical unicorn, you’d better bring it back stuffed and mounted so I can show my friends.”

Item 3: Sorry that you can’t see the board post on this third citation.  Perhaps you’re on the board and have seen it.  If not, my summary is that one person asked for “ideas to help drive people to our Facebook page.”  Many people replied with ideas that worked for them to get to 1,000 likes in X number of days.  The conversation on the board reminded me of this great email exchange I had with an industry contact of mine in regard to his questions about Facebook strategies and my follow up questions about what his goals are.  He said:

“I’m going to have to get my Senior Management Team to agree on the ‘Goal’.  I find that a lot of my friends up this way have jumped into the Social Media craze, but when I ask them what their goal is, they have no idea.  My management team has a history of introducing new products and services, and when I ask them what the goal is, they look at me like I have ten heads.  I always ask them, ‘how will you determine if this is a success or not?’ and I just get stares.”

Unfortunately, the focus of the board post became getting “likes,” which we will assume has become the unofficial currency of most bank Social Media efforts.  I did like one poster’s closing comment to “Have fun and look for a ROI!”  Unfortunately, liking unicorns and finding unicorns are not the same thing.

ROSMI Summary: CMO, “I like unicorns.”  Another CMO, “Me, too.  Hey, look, a Leprechaun! Sorry, I’m easily distracted.  Hey, look, a shiny object.”

Item 4: If you’re not reading Dave Martin on American Banker or through his site, then you’re missing out! (Subscribe to “Dave’s Instore Newsletter” on the right side of the page…even if your financial institution doesn’t have any “in-store” branches.) I’ve never met Dave but have been reading his newsletter for years now and he’s a great blend of sales and marketing…something all marketers should strive for.

You must click and read this article…come on, you’ve come this far.  Here it is again: Dave Martin on American Banker’s Bank Think titled “Your Staff’s Time is as Valuable as the Customer’s

Here is the most important statement in that article in case you missed it or didn’t click the link despite my pleadings:

“When managers express concern about employees feeling micro-managed about their time, I smile and say, “Well, that’s easy. Don’t micro-manage.” I simply suggest that we stress to folks that their talents and desire to succeed may be unlimited. But their time is not.

Employees don’t need (and, in fact, resent) being told what to do with each minute of their day. But regularly reminding them, in word and action, that their time is a valuable asset improves the chances that they (and you) will get the most out of it.”

I was speaking to a group of college English majors last week – Yes, I’m a former English major who ended up with a decent career story so I get invited back to speak occasionally – and one of the questions was whether hard work or talent was more important to get ahead.  While I could have taken that question in any manner of different directions – creativity is king, saying no to idiots is kind of valuable, brownnosing will save us all – I answered it in the most honest fashion by stating that both are important. But, that talent and hard work must meet at a supply and demand intersection of sorts.  “Hard work” as defined by looking busy all the time and answering emails at night is no substitution for leveraging your talents to achieve high level results.  Your talents should be abundant to you but also limited to the company – if there is only one of your talents, that’s not just job security but job creation!  Then the ultimate goal is to apply your talent with focus so you’re not defined as a hard worker but as a producer of results.

Simply stated:

[Your ability to utilize your limited amount of time] X [the high-payoff talents you possess] = How you will be judged by your organization

Just because you have “social media technical skills” doesn’t mean they are high-payoff activities for your organization.  And, the ability to utilize your limited amount of time means you need to have awareness of how to create results that matter…to your employer!  Where does generating “likes” fall into this equation?  It doesn’t.

ROSMI Summary: Hunting mythical unicorns isn’t something most people are well suited for and most likely won’t become a career defining endeavor.  It’s best left to the Care Bears…or whoever hunts them…(I’m not a big Sci Fi fan so may have that one wrong).

In Conclusion

Building, implementing, maintaining a social media strategy is a time-intensive endeavor, especially when the payoff isn’t there yet for most every Financial Institution.  The first two blog posts I shared have this correct.  I know of a handful of banks with consistently worthy social media efforts.  They are the true unicorns…and they are rare.

Not everyone can or should lead social media ventures…as indicated by the third item.  Technical proficiency in generating a page and “likes” isn’t what you or your institution should be shooting for.

Finally, our industry has gone so far past ROI when it comes to social media that we’ve forgotten about the limited resources we have to generate revenue for our institutions!  I rarely hear people talk about time management.  Perhaps this is because our industry has downsized so much that most people are so busy chasing unicorns that it seems as if everyone is working hard!  Have we become afraid to say, “that’s not the best use of our time” for fear of being viewed as incapable of working as hard as Sue or Bob down the hall?  Saying no to non-revenue generating activities is a valued skill.

It’s refreshing to see articles that question the validity of Social Media as a revenue generating strategy.  And, it was enough to shake me out of my non-blogging ways to reengage my four readers!

Feel free to comment.  I’m sure some will say that Social Media isn’t meant to generate revenue but to generate engagement.  Well, what is the true, main job of a great marketer?  To generate results that impact the bottom line?  Or to generate minimal engagement amongst a limited segment of your customer base?  To generate “likes”?   And, what if you only have time for one of these?  Which do you think would save your job if it were ever on the chopping block?


Footnote 1: OK, so maybe I’ve used my own social media endeavors to uncover a unicorn or two…I have booked some speaking gigs because of what someone saw on my LinkedIn profile or because of a recommendation.  More likely, these weren’t unicorns but like a Guide Horse (aka. Miniature Helper Pony for the Blind).  My social media strategies center on looking for a way to increase my visibility but in ways that wouldn’t require more resources than I had to devote…or more succinctly put, strategies that I could ignore when higher ROI activities presented themselves.  This blog is great, but can be abandoned for 160+ days when sales become so busy that you can’t devote resources to maintain regular posts.  Banks and CUs don’t have the luxury of abandoning their social media efforts for months at a time.


Footnote 2: I’ve been trying to figure out a way to toss this social media story into the “Internets” since I heard it in the fall of 2011 at a banking conference.  I didn’t figure out a seamless way to work it into the above post so here it is on its own in the footnotes area.

I saw a panel of bank social media experts talk about their experience with social media.  At the end of the panel discussion, an attendee asked the panel, “How do you address the question of ROI?”

The first participant to speak said, “How do you measure the ROI of a hug? Because that’s what we’re doing out there on twitter.”

Holy crap?  Really?  Banking may need a softer image but it’s not going to be about hugs and unicorns.


ABA Marketing Conference (and other things that are hindering my blogging)

September 27, 2011

Here are some of the things that I’ve been doing while I should have been blogging:

  • Speaking at last week’s ABA Bank Marketing Conference.  I was invited to represent the “Free Checking” side of our industry’s debate over product profitability in the new regulatory environment.  Mary Beth Sullivan of Capital Performance Group ( provided the fee side of the debate.  We had a great session (based on what I heard from the attendees) and this is obviously a popular and polarizing topic.  My slides can be found below, but a bunch of other resources on this topic (including a 60-page in-depth look at checking product changes, marketing, and sales processes at 20 of the top banks in American) can be found at  It was a fantastic conference and I was very impressed by the ABA’s programming (more on that in a future post).
  • Traveling out East to visit with new and prospective clients.  According to my fortune cookie, this bodes well:
  • Preparing for next month’s BAI Retail presentation with Jennifer Grazel (Head of Category Development – Financial Services, Healthcare and Travel at LinkedIn –  It should be a great one on how Bankers can Use LinkedIn to Generate Sales.  If you will be in Chicago, let me know so we can connect in person!
  • I’ll mention one other thing that’s been a barrier to blogging and that’s my last blog post! I did a part 1 of 2 on how Capital One might kill my relationship with ING. Now I’m committed to doing a part 2 but Capital One hasn’t done anything yet to my ING account except for adding the ability to write checks, which is a good thing!  I have a lot of research on this post #2, but unfortunately Capital One hasn’t done anything yet.
I promise to start blogging here more regularly.  It’s amazing how work gets in the way of my social media efforts!

Mark’s Slides from the ABA Marketing Conference

Dude, Get Your Own Orange Crush!

June 29, 2011

This is Blog Post 1 of 2 on what Capital One will do to ING…enjoy.

I have five checking accounts right now at five different institutions.  This is a hazard of working in the financial services industry and helping banks and CUs gain new customers.  It’s also a byproduct of having shopped around for many years for a good fit in a PFI.  While I have five checking accounts, several of which are used for basic transactions, my heart and my direct deposit lies with ING Direct.  They are my Orange Crush, you might say!

Unfortunately I – just like my ING brethren and sistren – am afraid of what Capital One might do to my relationship. See the rampant speculation here.

My relationship with ING started six years ago when they lured me on a first date with sexy talk of 4.5% interest on a savings account.  They even bought me dinner by way of a $25 account opening incentive.  Since then they have repeatedly wooed me with the fact that they don’t play games – what you see is what you get – and they have grown our relationship by thinking long term.

What I mean by this is:

  • They allow sub savings accounts so you can divide your money into buckets for different goals.  I have mentioned this convenient feature to many bankers over the years and many seem surprised that they’ve not done this for their own customers.  I’m more surprised than them when all of these bankers don’t implement this feature at any point after our conversation either.
  • They didn’t try to cross sell the hell out of me the day after my first account.  Nope, they allowed the experience do the talking for them and then later asked for both referrals and my additional accounts/deposits…of which I gave them both.
  • They have engaged me with money-saving tips.  People who know me in my real life know that I’ve never met a coupon I didn’t like.  If you want to be my friend, buy me a drink.  If you want to be my friend for life, buy me a drink with a BOGO (buy one, get one free) coupon.  It will show me that you value our friendship now and that you want to save money to buy me drinks in the future, too.
  • They have engaged me on a deeper level than just taking my money and allowing me access to it.  Their “We the Savers” movement (it’s gone past marketing when people call it a movement and post emotional things on the company’s FB wall) is something I found to be interesting enough to follow at first and then later ask to be a part of…shown here by my entry into their money-saving blog contest in early 2010:
 “Squirreling funds and spending on family in the Midwest (it’s a working title, folks).
Right now I’m leaving voicemails for contractors in the hopes of adding some insulation to the near-non-existent walls of our house. I’m doing this because my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter woke up freezing cold after removing all clothes except her underwear last night.  I’m also calling in the hopes of taking advantage of  the Lincoln Nebraska Electric System’s sustainable energy program, which will provide up to $1,000 to help me pay for this. That program started today and I had set up a reminder on my calendar. 
The money for this added insulation will come from one of my ING savings accounts.  I currently have five, or maybe six, I’m not totally sure.  They are each labeled with a different name and for a different reason.  This money would come out of the joint fund and go into a newly created “insulation” or maybe “keeping daughter from freezing” fund.  This kind of spending makes sense to me because it will pay back in saved energy costs and also provide added comfort.   
Fifteen years ago, I would not have imagined dropping a grand on something you can’t see, taste, or touch (not if you don’t want to be all itchy anyway).  But that was a different time, back when I was dancing to PM Dawn or some other one-hit-wonder in the basement of a fraternity. Back then I didn’t know what a thousand dollars looked like.  Now, I’m constantly analyzing how I can save my next thousand dollars, where it will go, and what it would be worth at retirement. It’s actually more fun than dancing to PM Dawn, though it may not sound like it.  Side note: Many of you are too young to know who PM Dawn is so imagine a large dreadlocked man in tiny sun glasses singing in a very soft but high-pitch voice to a flowing, serene techno tune.  You can now see why their one hit was all they could muster.
Two contractors are set to stop by the house later this week to give me estimates.  In order to get the sustainable energy credit for the walls, I’ll also have to add insulation to my attic, which now needs to be rated R19 or less. I’m now wishing that the people who built my house were less than competent, at least on this one area.  They certainly were drinking or asleep when they forgot the basement on this house, which is considered to be in tornado alley.  I can only hope to be so lucky on the attic issue, too.
If I don’t qualify for the credit, I suppose I’ll go ahead and get some insulation blown in the walls anyway. The surface temperature of my daughter’s arms this morning would certainly have warranted a concerned look from social services had they been there and monitoring that sort of thing. Over the years I’ve learned that money can create experiences, buy possessions, make you look like a big shot, allow you to buy the latest PM Dawn song from iTunes (assuming they are still tripping the light fantastic – did that comment date me?), but it can also make you feel like a good dad and husband because you’re able to keep your family a little warmer or safer.  I’m looking forward to spending this bit of savings on that feeling!“

I will blame my not being chosen to blog for We the Savers by the judging panel’s obvious lack of knowledge about PM Dawn (be ignorant no more, my friends!).  But, how many people out there enter your institution’s blog contest or engage you on your Facebook page?  I’m going to guess it’s a hair less than the amount of people who entered to blog money-saving tips for We the Savers.

My level of engagement might not be typical of all or even the majority of the ING customers…but maybe it is:

Editors Note: for those of you who prefer rampant cussing, please excuse the bars on the text.  

This is a turning point for me and ING.  Sure all of the sexy talk about 4.5% interest has waned a bit since we got married – I believe I’m only earning 1.1% interest on a substantial (for me anyway) pool of money – but they love is still there.  And sure Ally, Smarty Pig, and others out there might be more attractive dance partners but ING and I have history…or at least we did.

What is in store for me, the ING customer, now that someone is hoping to capitalize on my orange crush?  I’ll explore that more in the next post.

If you have thoughts – or if you’re also dating ING (gasp, how dare you!) – I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.  Or perhaps a R&B video response ala PM Dawn style would be better.

Is your bank drunk at the twitter party?

May 16, 2011

Last week there was an excellent article published on called “Banks Mining Social Networks with Analytics Tools.”  In addition to many thought-provoking insights, the article contained this quote:

“Dan Marks, chief marketing officer at First Tennessee in Memphis, views social media as a big cocktail party.  You want to go and listen, find out what people are saying, maybe jump in with a comment or a witty quip once in a while — but you don’t get to control the conversation or pitch products, he says.”

Dan makes a great analogy: social media is very much like a cocktail party.  Some parties are more fun than others but we all know that only a few party goers really make the party worthwhile.  The majority of guests are fillers (much like the random cast of characters that populate my dreams at night), with a small number of drunken idiots and braggarts.  I’m afraid that many banks out there are the drunken idiots at the cocktail party that is social media.

Allow me to explain.  Below are five recent tweets I pulled from a Twitter List of community banks.  I did tweak the tweets – say that five times real fast – to protect the identity of these drunken bankers but the content is unchanged.

Bank Tweet #1: “Today is Earth Day!  Celebrate by going paperless at Bank X and signing up for E-Statements!  Link.”

Cocktail Party Translation: “Today is Earth Day!  Let’s celebrate by weeding my lawn.  Oh, yeah, sorry about the non sequitur everyone…”

Why I say this: Celebrating Earth Day by signing up for estatements isn’t something new to our industry, as a matter of fact, I’d be surprised if anyone in our industry didn’t mention estatements when talking about the earth or trees or green things…they go hand in hand round here.  BUT…customers and prospects aren’t turning to twitter to be nudged into good stewardship, especially not when it is cost savings for the bank disguised as good stewardship.

Practical advice: Earth day is good, but let’s provide 8 tips to celebrate, number 4 of which could be estatements.

Bank Tweet #2: “Which #savings account is right for you?  Link.  #finance #money  #budget. “

Note: Link went to blog post about finding the right Bank X savings account.

Cocktail Party Translation: “What is wrong with the women at this party?  I’m tossing out tons of signals that I’m available but nothing.  #eligiblebachelor!”

Why I say this: Hashtags are useful when trying to draw the attention of fellow event attendees (#finovate) or fellow industry peeps (#socialmedia).  When you toss 4 similar hashtags into a tweet about your products, you quite simply aren’t sure about the use of hashtags.

Practical advice: Figure out how to use hashtags.

Bank Tweet #3: “BankX Welcomes Shareholders to town!  The BankX Annual Shareholders Meeting is today at the Douglas Theatre.”

Cocktail Party Translation: “My rich parents are coming to visit next weekend.  We will be drinking from cups made of gold.  Try to keep your manure carts off our lawn, peasants!”

Why I say this: Only shareholders care about shareholder meetings and not many of them at that.  And how many of them are on twitter?   And why draw attention to this meeting since the bank’s growth rate was negative for the first time in 5 years?

Practical advice: Welcome your shareholders at the welcoming reception…preferably not a virtual one on Twitter.

Bank Tweet #4: “We are now on the map!  Go to our homepage and click the map to find the Bank X office nearest you.”

Cocktail Party Translation: “I think I’m drunk.  Where’d you go?  Oh wait, I closed my eyes.”

Why I say this: This tweet may have actually been from a drunk person.  Perhaps written late at night and then set up for a midday post.  Otherwise there is no explanation as to why this would ever need to be tweeted.

Practical advice: Stop drinking.  Stop tweeting.  Perhaps, both?

Bank Tweet #5: “TRIVIA: What percentage of the popular vote did Abraham Lincoln get in the election of 1860?”

Cocktail Party Translation: “I know it’s off topic, but how much change do you think I’m carrying in my pockets right now?  There will be no prize if you guess correctly, only the satisfaction of knowing.”

Why I say this: There were a total of seven “trivia” tweets in the same day from this bank.  None related.  None with a prize.  None with a point you might say.

Practical advice: The pursuit of trivia is a board game, not a social media strategy.

This blog post is not meant to be snarky, simply an observation that despite the large volume of resources about social media for FIs– some random examples here, here, and here – many institutions deem it necessary to forge onward without a plan or pleasant cocktail party personality.

Here is my advice. Think about what kind of person lights up a party?  I would imagine it’s an engaging storyteller type who is smart, funny, and rides the fine line between having a good time and drunken tweeting.  Be that engaging person.  Be informed and ready with a great and relevant story for your party guests.  Be that kind of bank on Twitter and Facebook.

Or, if that’s too much to shoot for, simply focus on making sure you’re not “that guy.”  “That guy” is the one they talk about in shushed tones after the party…the one who now has only one eyebrow because the other one was shaved off by another drunken idiot.

What’s your advice for helping get these banks on the wagon?

It’s not social to ignore your customers

May 4, 2011

Last month the new J.D. Power and Associates Report (Full report here: came out and reported that customer satisfaction at retail banks is up from 2010.  This was despite a decline in satisfaction with fees…and a small note about banks unresponsiveness to complaints that were delivered via social media. You might have missed it so here it is again:

“One in eight customers who indicate they use social media say that they have used it to contact their bank for service-related issues. However, only 20 percent of these customers report receiving a response from their bank.”

I found this tidbit very interesting because of the enormous amount of banks and CUs still rushing into social media.  I’m not sure what your institution’s initial social media checklist looks like but please let’s not forget to add “will have plan in place to respond to our customers complaints” to the list.

Social media is an engagement channel and I can think of few less engaging things than being ignored.  If you have opened up a channel of communication, then you are responsible for responding.  The worse part about this 20 percent figure is that social media is thought of as an instant form of communication, which means we not only expect a response but we expect it immediately.   I have posted on a restaurant’s Facebook wall asking for a reservation minutes before leaving the house and received a response before leaving the driveway.  Is your institution monitoring and replying in real time like a small 30 table restaurant in Nebraska?  For you will be judged in relation to all other businesses online.

Prior to social media, complaints were issued via mail, phone, or in person.  At least with mail there was a lag time and multiple steps required between complaint and response.  At least then one might have a scapegoat to blame for a response not being received.  You do not have this with social media.

With social media, if your response isn’t instant, you’re behind.  If you’re response isn’t ever sent, you need to move your page to Myspace where nobody will ever find it.

Our industry has enough challenges – well documented by Jeffry Pilcher’s recent post “The Formula For Winning and Losing Bank Customers” @ – so let’s just be sure that we’re not hurting ourselves in our attempt to engage online.  Better yet, let’s be ready to respond in real time via this new channel of preference.  There is no place to go but up from 20%…I hope.

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